Budo for Peace

“Fighting for peace”

Imagine believing you can fight for peace. Danny Hakim, the charismatic founder of Budo for Peace has got over one thousand Arab and Jewish kids in Israel not just believing it, but practicing it everyday.

During the last ten years Budo for Peace has created twenty clubs throughout Israel where various martial arts including Karate, Judo, Aikido and Taekando are taught.  The clubs are formed in Jewish, Arab and Bedouin communities- communities which rarely interact with one another- and are then paired with another nearby club of a different ethnic background, called a “twin club.” After time spent breaking down stereotypes and analyzing fears of “the other,” twin clubs begin joint training sessions. By teaching martial arts through this process, Budo for Peace reaches out to youth in conflict areas, and imparts the values of tolerance, co-existence and respect on all who participate.

Peace Ambassadors 

In addition to the obvious physical benefits and general fun of studying martial arts, the philosophy too is new and exotic and pretty cool. Through joint seminars, the children learn a shared language and participate in common rituals that form a bridge between their cultures. They learn to bow, to take off their shoes, to sanctify the space of the Dojo (the learning space), to count together in Japanese. Here they have common ground, a third language or lexicon. They are taught that their opponents are not enemies but partners, who are there to mutually develop skills. Now isn’t that a thought?

In fact the word “Budo”, often loosely translated as Martial Arts, actually means “stopping conflict.”  All the instructors, who are black belts in their fields, are trained to be educators and facilitators. The students are taught how the principles of martial arts are used to bring about self- respect and respect for each other.  The lessons are based on 12 values: Courtesy, Sensitivity, Honesty, Humility, Intelligence, Kindness, Organization, Responsibility, Wisdom, Love, Courage and Respect. They learn the importance of responsible behaviour (a lesson that government officials in the region would do well to take note of), modesty (the modest dress code allows Arab girls to comfortably be involved), and environmental awareness (together they embark on civic projects like cleaning up beaches).

You’ve probably heard about other programs that use sport to bring together different cultures – but according to Hakim, Budo for Peace is the only organization in the world that uses martial arts to promote co-existence and non-violence.  The beauty of using martial arts to promote peace in regions characterized with very real conflict lies in a very simple truth: the message is built directly into the discipline. To study martial arts is to study non-violence, respect and tolerance. In this way, every child that is trained becomes an ambassador for peace- but just in case you haven’t got it, they can put up a darn good fight for it too!

Have a look at this video that shows a Budo of Peace club in Northern Israel where orthodox Jewish kids learn judo with their Arab neighbours and an Arab instructor. So far, only 28 people have seen this video – so make a difference and watch it!

On 6 December 2011, Budo for Peace  has invited us to visit one of their clubs in Jisr Al-Zarqa, a remarkable Arab community near Caesaria. We will be leaving from Herzliya Pituach at 14h30 and will  be back by 18h00. Children are welcome. For more information contact Daniella@jaff.name

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